CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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WHAT SHOULD WE DO?

Luke – Wide Open Doors
 
Luke 3 John at the Jordan
Do you know people who just don’t seem to have filter when they express themselves in pubic gatherings? They seem to readily see what is going on in certain situations and cut to the chase with their personal observations of life as it is. They are not “PC”, politically correct in any way as they express themselves. We sometimes flinch and shutter at the harsh words that fall from their lips. We sometimes shy away because we’d rather hear about “life with sugar” that covers our sins of gossip, uncaring, and selfishness.
 
John has come into the world with a message from God. He chose to separate himself from the rest of the world to live simply. He grew up in the wild. He wildly believes what God tells him. He is passionate to bring people back to God. He sees the obvious sin of the people. He tells it like it is because of his intense love for God. He shouts the message people need to hear and He will not back down. Strangely, people are drawn to the wilderness, to where John is, to hear this prophet speak. He speaks Truth with no filter, no sugar coatings, and no political correctness. He was born to do exactly what he is doing…calling people out about the sin they daily engage in while preparing the way for the One and Only One who can save them.
 
luke-3-10.jpgThe people who are listening ask repeatedly, “What should we do?” John quickly answers with simple Truth led by the Holy Spirit. There are no 3-point sermons here. His message is plain to hear and understand. “You are sinners”. John names the sin, calls it out and tells why it is wrong and how to come back to God. You must repent your sin to God. You must change your lifestyle to “prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Be baptized to publicly declare your changed, repentant heart. Then he tells of the Messiah, to clear up any misunderstanding the people may have, declaring that he is NOT the Messiah. He is only the one sent to tell of the Messiah who is coming soon. Very soon.
 
Luke 3 6What should WE do?
To say we’re sorry isn’t enough. To be sorry we got caught in the act is not enough. Repent to God, in Jesus Name, for it is God we have sinned against. Then turn our backs on the old life and begin a new life, thinking more and more like Jesus. Be baptized to declare our repentance. Changed behavior, living God’s way, shows true repentance.
 
Luke 3, NLT
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
 
Luke 3 JohnIt was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea; Herod Antipas was ruler over Galilee; his brother Philip was ruler over Iturea and Traconitis; Lysanias was ruler over Abilene. 2 Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living in the wilderness. 3 Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. 4 Isaiah had spoken of John when he said,
 
Verse Image for Luke 3:11 - 1x1“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!
5 The valleys will be filled,
and the mountains and hills made level.
The curves will be straightened,
and the rough places made smooth.
6 And then all people will see
the salvation sent from God.’”
 
7 When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? 8 Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. 9 Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”
 
10 The crowds asked, “What should we do?”
 
11 John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”
 
12 Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?”
 
13 He replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.”
 
14 “What should we do?” asked some soldiers.
 
John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.”
 
15 Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and they were eager to know whether John might be the Messiah. 16 John answered their questions by saying, “I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.” 18 John used many such warnings as he announced the Good News to the people.
 
19 John also publicly criticized Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, for marrying Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for many other wrongs he had done. 20 So Herod put John in prison, adding this sin to his many others.
 
Luke 3 repentWould you go to prison for telling the Truth?
 
Dear Heavenly Father, Savior and Lord,
I repent of the sin that keeps us apart. Thank you for John. Thank you, Jesus, for saving our souls. Continue to teach us and hold us to the fire of your Truth.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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PARENTING THE SON OF GOD

Luke – Doors Wide Open!
 
Luke 2 son and father
Parenting is challenging in the best of situations. Parenting involves unconditionally loving these growing humans who will make mistakes as they navigate life just as you made mistakes in your growing up years. “Oh no, he is just like me!” This should not be a grand revelation to us but it seems to be at times. “She thinks like I used to think about doing tasks I don’t like to do.” “Oh, what a short fuse!” He or She was born of you. Why is that a surprise?
 
But of course, it is much more than genes that influence our children. Our children reflect and imitate who they see and hear most…and that is you, dear parents. Parents, whether you know it are not, you are always teaching your offspring. They watch every move you make, even while having their heads down engrossed in technology. By the way, who provided that technology and taught them how to use it?
 
Now, consider parenting the Son of God. First born to Mary and Joseph, Jesus was raised by Mary and Joseph. He was a good student who learned with other Jewish boys. “The child grew up healthy and strong.” His parents must of provided for him well as he worked alongside Joseph the carpenter . “He was filled with wisdom.” God, His Father in heaven, provided His perfect decision making skills. Jesus had three “parents”–God, Mary and Joseph. With this combination, Jesus found “favor with God and mankind”.
 
As I ponder how it must have been as the human parent of the Son of God, who was without sin and perfect in every way, but still was taught the skills for being a good Jewish man someday, I am reminded that we, who are believers and followers of Christ, can have God in the middle of our own parenting and grand-parenting!
 
Are we asking too much help from others or asking God what is best as we raise His created to be and to do all that He intended for them according to HIS will, plan and purpose. Do we want our kids to be like us or to be a reflection of Christ?
 
Luke 2 prayerI know our kids are perplexing and challenging, but don’t give up showing them Christ in You. Don’t give up loving them unconditionally. Always forgive as Christ forgave you…a million times a day if necessary. Guide, lead by example, nurture them with God’s Word of directions–the manual for living life skillfully. Pray with them, not just for them, so they will know how to pray. Say I’m sorry when you are wrong so they will know how and when to be sorry when they mess up. Let them know, without a doubt, when disagreements come in the latter years, that You are ALWAYS on their side, in their corner, loving them always…like Christ loves us.
 
Luke 2 Jesus reads
Remain strong. Ask for wisdom, insight and understanding. God will answer this prayer quickly and in a timely manner, just when you need Him most. Pray for discernment for this provides “parent radar” for when our kids get too close to the fire of evil and evil’s schemes to snatch up our children. Pray for a church that teaches God’s Word to your children and supports you in your work to raise them to find and follow Christ.
 
These are things I ponder while reading Luke’s few words of Jesus’ growing up years. We have God as our helper, just as Mary and Joseph had God as their guide to raise Jesus in God’s ways that was taught to God’s people at that time. Even when perplexed, Mary and Joseph loved Jesus well. Jesus, Son of God, who would one day be their Savior. Wow. Can we wrap our minds around all these thoughts?
 
Luke 2, NLT
39 When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. 40 There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.
 
Luke 2 about my Father's businessJesus Speaks with the Teachers
41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. 42 When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. 43 After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, 44 because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.
 
45 When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. 46 Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. 47 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
 
48 His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
 
LUke 2 Jesus grew49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they didn’t understand what he meant.
 
51 Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart.
 
52 Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.
 
GOING DEEPER…(With the help of commentator, Warren Wiersbe)
 
What did Jesus do during the “hidden years” at Nazareth? Dr. Luke reports that the lad developed physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually (Luke 2:40, 52). In His incarnation, the Son of God set aside the independent use of His own divine attributes and submitted Himself wholly to the Father (Phil. 2:1–11). There are deep mysteries here that no one can fully understand or explain, but we have no problem accepting them by faith.
 
Jesus did not perform any miracles as a boy, traditions notwithstanding, because the turning of water into wine was the beginning of His miracles (John 2:1–11). He worked with Joseph in the carpenter shop (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3) and apparently ran the business after Joseph died. Joseph and Mary had other children during those years (Matt. 13:55–56; John 7:1–10), for the “until” of Matthew 1:25 indicates that the couple eventually had normal marital relations.
 
Luke gives us only one story from our Lord’s youthful years. Joseph and Mary were devout Jews who observed Passover in Jerusalem every year. Three times a year the Jewish men were required to go to Jerusalem to worship (Deut. 16:16), but not all of them could afford to do so. If they chose one feast, it was usually the Passover, and they tried to take their family with them, for it was the most important feast on the Jewish calendar.
 
People traveled to the feasts in caravans, the women and children leading the way and setting the pace, and
the men and young men following behind. Relatives and whole villages often traveled together and kept an eye on each other’s children. At the age of twelve, Jesus could easily have gone from one group to another and not been missed. Joseph would think Jesus was with Mary and the other children, while Mary would suppose He was with Joseph and the men, or perhaps with one of their relatives.
 
They had gone a day’s journey from Jerusalem when they discovered that Jesus was missing. It took a day to return to the city and another day for them to find Him. During those three days, Joseph and Mary had been “greatly distressed” (Luke 2:48, “sorrowing”). This word is used to describe Paul’s concern for lost Israel (Rom. 9:2) as well as the pain of lost souls in Hades (Luke 16:24–25).
 
Whether Jesus had spent the entire time in the temple, we don’t know. It certainly would have been safe there, and the heavenly Father was watching over Him. We do know that when Joseph and Mary found Him, He was in the midst of the teachers, asking them questions and listening to their answers, and the teachers were amazed at both His questions and His answers.
 
Mary’s loving rebuke brought a respectful but astonished reply from Jesus: “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49 nasb). It can also be translated “in the things of My Father” (nasb margin), but the idea is the same. Jesus was affirming His divine sonship and His mission to do the will of the Father.
 
Luke 2 growing God's wayThe word must was often on our Lord’s lips: “I must preach” (Luke 4:43); “The Son of man must suffer” (Luke 9:22); the Son of Man “must be lifted up” (John 3:14). Even at the age of twelve, Jesus was moved by a divine compulsion to do the Father’s will.
 
Since Jesus “increased in wisdom” (Luke 2:52), we wonder how much He understood God’s divine plan at that time. We must not assume that at the age of twelve He was omniscient. Certainly He grew in His comprehension of those mysteries as He communed with His Father and was taught by the Spirit.
 
One thing is sure: Joseph and Mary didn’t understand! This was a part of the pain from “the sword” that Simeon had promised her (Luke 2:35), and no doubt it happened again and again as the boy matured. Years later, during His ministry, our Lord’s family didn’t understand Him (Luke 8:19–21; John 7:1–5).
 
Luke 2 52.jpgJesus is a wonderful example for all young people to follow. He grew in a balanced way (Luke 2:52) without neglecting any part of life, and His priority was to do the will of His Father (see Matt. 6:33). He knew how to listen (Luke 2:46) and how to ask the right questions. He learned how to work, and He was obedient to His parents.
 
The Boy Jesus grew up in a large family, in a despised city, nurtured by parents who were probably poor. The Jewish religion was at an all-time low, the Roman government was in control, and society was in a state of fear and change. Yet when Jesus emerged from Nazareth, eighteen years later, the Father was able to say of Him, “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).
 
May the Father be able to say that about us!
 
Luke 2 prayer of 2 52
Dear Heavenly Father, Savior and Lord,
Thank you for helping us teach our children about you. When we made mistakes in decision making, you forgave and helped us to move on with help to learn from our mistakes. You gave us your extreme example of love and forgiveness. Help us to continue to live for You with You living in us. May our children and grandchildren see YOU in us. Continue Your work of salvation in and through us.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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HIS NAME IS JESUS

Luke – Doors Wide Open!
 
Luke 2 babe in armsAll of us know how it feels to wait for months, maybe even years for something to happen. You feel so passionate about it that you are determined to work for it as you willing wait for it to happen. What if what you are waiting for goes beyond waiting for that job promotion, your man to propose or your girl to say yes to marriage, graduation from college, or those painfully long nine months before your first baby is born? Maybe it’s waiting for a loved one to finally come to Jesus with a heart to follow Him completely in a new relationship. Waiting is not our strongest attribute as humans, is it?
 
In our passage today, we read the passion of two people, Simeon and Anna, who waited well. God fulfilled His promise to these two prophets who knew He would. Their wait was finally over. Their excitement went beyond the “night before Christmas wait” for gifts to be opened. (Or in this case, eight days after Christmas!) Obedience led Mary and Joseph to the Temple that day. Obedience to the Holy Spirit led Simeon and Anna there, also. God then orchestrated the union between the prophets wait and the parents who held the Messiah!
 
Luke 2 thanks to GodYes, the expectation of Simeon and Anna, who have waited all their lives for the coming of the Messiah, is realized in this baby in arms. They knew immediately Who this baby was and what He would do. The Gift of Salvation has been born! The Redeemer has come to save all people from sin and restore a right relationship with God whom they have served all their lives! The wait is over! They have seen Him with their own eyes! They know they are in the Presence of God in human form.
 
His Name is Jesus.
 
Luke 2, NLT
Jesus Is Presented in the Temple
Luke 2 blessing.jpg21 Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.
 
22 Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.” 24 So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
 
Luke 2 faithful waitingThe Prophecy of Simeon
25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
 
29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
 
33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
 
Luke 2 Anna praisesThe Prophecy of Anna
36 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.
 
39 When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. 40 There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.
 
GOING DEEPER STILL…
 
LUke 2 hand of GodOne of the traditional Jewish prayers is, “May I see the consolation of Israel!” That prayer was answered for Simeon when he saw Jesus Christ in the temple. He was a man who was led by the Spirit of God, taught by the Word of God, and obedient to the will of God, and therefore he was privileged to see the salvation of God. How important it is for people to see God’s salvation, Jesus Christ, before they see death.
 
God’s timing is always perfect. Anna came up just as Simeon was praising the Lord for the Child Jesus, so she joined in the song! I would like to have heard these elderly people singing in the temple! Their praise was inspired by the Spirit of God, and God accepted it. But Anna did much more than sing; she also spread the good news among the other faithful members of “the remnant” who were waiting for the redemption of Israel. The excitement began to spread as more and more people heard the good news.
 
Luke 2 what they sawWhat was the message of the prophets now?
The wait is over! The Redeemer has been born! Excitement spreads like a wild fire among the “remnant” of God’s people who did not give up hope.
 
And His Name is Jesus!
 
What have you been waiting for?
 
He’s here…waiting for you to accept, believe, follow and live abundantly and securely under His wing. He is Jesus, God’s Son. He is who you have been waiting for to fulfill you life completely.
 
Luke 2 name is JesusWhat is our message to those who do not know?
 
Dear Heavenly Father, Lord and Savior,
Thank you for saving our souls and making us whole. Thank you for restoring us to full relationship with You. Thank you for the leading and guiding of your Holy Spirit. Thank you for always being with us. Thank you for the example of “holy waiting” from Simeon and Anna. Thank you for Truth.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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FEAR NOT

Luke – Doors Wide Open!
Luke 2 human fears
What do we fear most? Many of us have real fears such as the fear of heights, the fear of birds (cough, me), the fear of losing what you have obtained in this life, the fear of losing family members, the fear of not being able to pay all your bills on time, the fear of doing anything for the first time and the fear of embarrassment. From poor to rich, all humans have fears.
 
A little fear is good. It keeps us from doing things that are not good for us. The fear of death might keep us from jumping off a building unassisted. The fear of personal injury of crashing our vehicles might cause us to be more alert on the highways as we drive with others who seem to have no fear.
 
Fear can be coupled with respect for those who know more than you know. This is also a healthy fear so that you don’t go beyond limits of what you do not know and get into trouble. For example, when we were younger we did what our parents told us to do for fear of the punishment and/or the consequences of our actions of misbehavior. Our parent’s love and care for us caused them to set limits for our behavior. Our fear of the consequences of misbehaving coupled with our love and respect for our parents guided our decision making. Sometimes, we failed and learned from disobedience. Most times we learned from doing what was right and good for all.
 
Luke 2 do not be afraid
In this same vein of thinking, we fear God with awe and respect for Who He is. We know He can do anything. He created the world. He created us. Nothing is impossible with God. Mary feared God as she fell to her knees. God’s angel immediately assured her with, “Don’t be afraid”. She rose to her feet in awe and respect for God’s message telling her she would carry the Son of God in her womb. Joseph’s fear when visited in a dream by God, coupled with awe and respect for God message and assignment caused him to take care of Mary despite what others in their community might think of this arrangement. Did God choose this couple because of their awe and respect for Him?
 
luke-2-shepherds-fear-not.jpgThe shepherds fell to their knees in fear of the great light produced by the armies of angels who announced the arrival of the long awaited Messiah. The message got them back up on their feet, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Awe and respect caused them drop everything and go see. Did God announce the great arrival of His Son to mere shepherds, the poorest of the poor, because of their awe and respect for Him?
 
While fear seems to drive us to our knees, awe and respect of God pulls us to our feet with His message of “Fear not, don’t be afraid” and gets us going because of our love and devotion for God. Trust and obedience to God seems to trump all our fears. Is that why God always opens with, “Fear not?”
 
These shepherds are good examples for us to imitate today. They received by faith the message God sent them and then responded with immediate obedience.
 
Luke 2, NLT
The Birth of Jesus
 
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
 
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
 
The Shepherds and Angels
Luke 2 fear not good news8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
 
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
 
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
 
Luke 2 fear not manger15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
 
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
 
Luke 2 our fear notGOING DEEPER…
When God comes to us and asks us to do something, say something and be His messenger of hope, love and forgiveness, we will have human fears. But our awe, respect, and reverence for God will trump our fears when we trust and obey. Fear not…
 
Dear Heavenly Father, Lord and Savior,
It seems whenever you ask us to join you in your work we fear first. We are mere humans. But you know that, and you assure us with fear not. Your promises are true and unchanging. You prove your promises over and over in our lives. Where you guide us you provide us with all we need to accomplish what you have asked us to be and do. Fear diminishes as we trust and obey. Thank you for always being with us. Help us to “fear not”, get up and get going for today.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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HIS NAME IS JOHN

Luke – Doors Wide Open!
 
Luke 1 John
John’s birth was miraculous. The village celebrated this birth without knowing God’s purpose. God had been silent for over 400 years. His people had all but rejected Him. Religious leaders formed self indulgent habits and used their power of position to burden people with man-made rules and regulations. It is no wonder God left them to their own ways. True to His promise, however, God never left the building, or in His words. “I will never leave you.”
 
The silence was finally broken with the birth of two sons. In God’s time, these sons, named by God, would change the world, throwing the doors wide open to lost people with a way to find Him and come back to Him in the most important relationship we will ever have.
 
It is time for the first son to be born to a very mature couple who loved God.
 
His name is John.
 
Luke 1, NLT
The Birth of John the Baptist
57 When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. 58 And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her.
 
59 When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!”
 
Luke 1 John is named61 “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” 62 So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. 63 He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.
 
65 Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.
 
Zechariah’s Prophecy
Luke 1 naming
67 Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:
 
68 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited and redeemed his people.
69 He has sent us a mighty Savior
from the royal line of his servant David,
70 just as he promised
through his holy prophets long ago.
71 Now we will be saved from our enemies
and from all who hate us.
72 He has been merciful to our ancestors
by remembering his sacred covenant—
73 the covenant he swore with an oath
to our ancestor Abraham.
74 We have been rescued from our enemies
so we can serve God without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness
for as long as we live.
 
76 “And you, my little son,
will be called the prophet of the Most High,
because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
77 You will tell his people how to find salvation
through forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.”
 
80 John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.
 
THINK ABOUT IT….
Luke 1 new day
Can you feel the joy and excitement as Zechariah praises God with words from God about the coming Lord? God is no longer silent! God is coming! There will be Light for those who sit in darkness! He will guide us to the path of peace!
 
With this message comes a call to repent. May we never forget that true repentance leads to this exuberant joy of a committed, restored relationship with God once more.
 
The people will soon find out through God’s word spoken courageously and boldly through this man named John.
 
GOING DEEPER STILL…
 
Traditionally, a baby boy would be named after his father or someone else in the family,so the relatives and neighbors were shocked when Elizabeth insisted on the name John. Zacharias wrote “His name is John” on a tablet, and that settled it! Immediately God opened the old priest’s mouth, and he sang a hymn that gives us four beautiful pictures of what the coming of Jesus Christ to earth really means.
 
DOORS OPEN (v. 68). The word redeem means “to set free by paying a price.” It can refer to the releasing of a prisoner or the liberating of a slave. Jesus Christ came to earth to bring “deliverance to the captives” (Luke 4:18), salvation to people in bondage to sin and death. Certainly we are unable to set ourselves free; only Christ could pay the price necessary for our redemption (Eph. 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18–21).
 
The people were sitting in darkness and death, and distress gripped them when Jesus came; but He brought light, life, and peace. It was the dawn of a new day because of the tender mercies of God (see Matt. 4:16).
 
Luke 1 Zechariah son
The old priest had not said anything for nine months, but he certainly compensated for his silence when he sang this song of praise to God! And how joyful he was that his son was chosen by God to prepare the way for the Messiah. John was “prophet of the Highest” (Luke 1:76), introducing to Israel “the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:32) who was conceived in Mary’s womb by “the power of the Highest” (Luke 1:35).
 
Instead of enjoying a comfortable life as a priest, this prophet lived in the wilderness, disciplining himself physically and spiritually, waiting for the day when God would send him out to prepare Israel for the arrival of the Messiah.
 
luke-1-name-is-john.gifHis name is John.
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
Oh how we love to read your word that tells your story of reconciliation for our relationship with you. Thank you for sending John who introduced repentance and prepared the way for the Redeemer! Thank you for saving our souls and making us wholly devoted to You. Thank you for a man named John. Thank you, Jesus. Continue to transform our thinking as we walk with You.
In Jesus Name, Amen
 
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BECAUSE YOU BELIEVED

Luke – Doors Wide Open
 
Luke 1 blessed
Some wonder why blessings seem to come more to others than themselves. Maybe we don’t understand what blessings are. Maybe those who look at others’ blessings are not seeing what God is doing in them. We humans compare ourselves with others and are disappointed or encouraged depending on how we feel that day. When we compare and rank blessings, based on feelings, we miss how God, who we say we believe and trust, is blessing us continually. Comparisons come when we don’t really know what blessings are. Our small minds think only materialistically. Our minds need to think higher than earth level.
 
What does it mean when God “blesses” us?
 
Here is an example, in Genesis 12:1-3, God makes a promise to Abram, saying, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God is promising good fortune, and a good future, to the descendants of Abram, and He is saying that others will gain good fortune through him. It can be said that all who believe in the God of Israel are consecrated with blood–the blood of Jesus Christ—through faith. The Hebrew word barak means literally “to kneel” and when used in this context, it indicates a relationship between man, who adores God by kneeling, and God, who benefits men with His presence.
 
Luke 1 Elizabeth and MaryAnother word translated “blessing” is the Hebrew word esher, which indicates a state of happiness. This word occurs frequently in the Psalms and Proverbs. When the Psalmist says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1), he is saying “you will be happy if you do not walk in the counsel of the wicked, etc.” Obedience to God is not a pre-requisite for salvation—while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)—but obedience to God and living according to His Word is a recipe for blessing, for happiness in life (Proverbs 3:1-4).
 
There are two Greek words in the New Testament which are translated as “blessing.” The first is makarios, which carries the same meaning as the Hebrew word esher. The other is eulogeo, which is used to give a good report or say a good word; it is more similar to the meaning of barak. We bless God for all the blessings He gives us in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), and we are to bless those who mistreat us, because we were called to receive a blessing from God (1 Peter 3:9). The relationship of believers to God, our submission to Him and His gifts toward us, are described in terms of blessing, and indeed, there is no blessing as meaningful or as permanent as our inheritance in Christ (Galatians 3:18; 1 Peter 1:4).
 
Luke 1 Mary and Elizabeth
Sometimes blessings come with confusion and fear of the unknown. So many of us run from God’s blessings or favor. This was Mary’s first thought as she was trying to understand God’s message through His messenger. To those who believe, like Mary, with all their hearts, minds and souls, God quickly follows up his message with calm assurance…”Don’t be afraid, Mary.” He will do that for us, too. We need to calm down and listen. When we do listen, we “get it”. Joy enters where fear once resided.
 
Mary received the affirmation she needed from Elizabeth who knew before Mary told her the whole story of “the visit”. It is amazing how God orchestrates others to come into our lives to affirm us when we believe in the blessing of God and what He is telling us He will do in us and through us. Elizabeth’s words could not be more loving and kind, “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
 
Sometimes we have to wait. Elizabeth waited past her childbearing years to have a baby. “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.” God blessed her as the mother of the one who would prepare the way for Jesus. Elizabeth was blessed because she believed. When Zechariah heard the news he responded, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Because of his unbelief, his blessing came with a reprimand, “since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born.” Not being able to speak would be hard on a priest! So be careful. Learn from Zechariah. Don’t mess with God’s blessings! Just say thank you.
 
If you read yesterday’s passage closely (most of us miss this) you will read that John was filled with God’s Holy Spirit even before he was born! “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.” Could that be the reason “at the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,” too? Yes!
 
luke-1-mary-responds.jpgTwo women, chosen, and called by God, to deliver two sons who would forever change the world. One would be a man filled with the Holy Spirit, set apart, ordained to prepare the way for the other, the Son of God, who was the Holy Spirit, the three-in-One. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. John would get the attention of the people to repent and turn back to God. Jesus would be the perfect sacrifice to complete our total redemption so that we can enter the open doors to God! Wow!
 
Let us wrap our minds around this truth as we read, imagine the scene and be blessed just from reading and thinking about how John and Jesus entered this world filled with the Holy Spirit. They will open wide the doors to the Kingdom of God! Salvation is for everyone.
 
Luke 1, NLT
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
 
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
 
29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
 
34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
 
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.”
 
38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
 
Mary Visits Elizabeth
Luke 1 might is our God39 A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town 40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
 
42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
 
The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise
46 Mary responded,
 
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.”
 
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.
 
Luke 1 faithDo you feel favored, blessed by God, in your walk with Him?
 
Count the many ways God has intervened in your life with Him so that you could overcome and be less fearful.
 
“For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.”
 
Let the praises of gratitude begin…
 
Dear Heavenly Father,
It’s never about the things of this life, it is about the blessings you supply to feed our souls. It is about the knowledge of you to wash over and cleanse our minds. It is about the abiding of Your Presence that fills our hearts to overflow with Your Holy Spirit. You are, indeed, with us. Continue to transform us by guiding our every thought and action. May our thoughts go higher, closer to where you are as you bless us.
In Jesus Name, Amen
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INCLUDED

LUKE – DOORS WIDE OPEN
 
Luke 1 doors out.jpg
Most of us, most of the time, feel left out–misfits. We don’t belong. Others seem to be so confident, so sure of themselves, “insiders” who know the ropes, old hands in a club from, which we are excluded.
 
One of the ways we have of responding to this is to form our own club, or join one that will have us. Here is at least one place where we are “in” and the others “out.” The clubs range from informal to formal in gatherings that are variously political, social, cultural, and economic. But the one thing they have in common is the principle of exclusion. Identity or worth is achieved by excluding all but the chosen. The terrible price we pay for keeping all those other people out so that we can savor the sweetness of being insiders is a reduction of reality, a shrinkage of life.
 
Nowhere is this price more terrible than when it is paid in the cause of religion. But religion has a long history of doing just that, of reducing the huge mysteries of God to the respectability of club rules, of shrinking the vast human community to a “membership.” But with God there are no outsiders.
 
Luke 1 includedLuke is a most vigorous champion of the outsider. An outsider himself, the only Gentile in an all-Jewish cast of New Testament writers, he shows how Jesus includes those who typically were treated as outsiders by the religious establishment of the day; women, common laborers (sheepherders), the racially different (Samaritans), the poor. He will not countenance religion as a club. As Luke tells the story, all of us who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance (and who of us hasn’t felt it?) now find the doors wide open, found and welcomed by God in Jesus.
 
Let’s read, pause, savor, meditate, listen to what God has to say through the pen of Luke.
 
Luke 1, NLT
Introduction
Luke 1 certainty
Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.
 
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
Luke 1 a tale
5 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. 7 They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
 
8 One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.
 
11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”
 
18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”
 
luke-1-when-god.jpg19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”
 
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. 22 When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.
 
23 When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”
 
THINK ABOUT IT…
Luke 1 lukeYes, if ever a man wrote a book filled with good news for everybody, Dr. Luke is that man. His key message is, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He presents Jesus Christ as the compassionate Son of Man, who came to live among sinners, love them, help them, and die for them.
 
The gospel of Luke was written for Theophilus (“lover of God”), probably a Roman official who had trusted Christ and now needed to be established in the faith. It’s also possible that Theophilus was a seeker after truth who was being taught the Christian message, because the word translated instructed in Luke 1:4 gives us our English word catechumen, “someone who is being taught the basics of Christianity.”
 
Luke 1 101The life and message of Christ were so important that many books had already been written about Him, but not everything in them could be trusted. Luke wrote his gospel so that his readers might have an accurate and orderly narrative of the life, ministry, and message of Jesus Christ. Luke had carefully researched his material, interviewed eyewitnesses, and listened to those who had ministered the Word. Most important, he had the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The phrase from the very first (Gk. anothen) can be translated “from above,” as it is in John 3:31 and 19:11. It speaks of the inspiration of the Spirit of God on the message that Luke wrote.
 
BACKGROUND
 
It was indeed a dark day for the nation of Israel. The people had heard no prophetic word from God for four hundred years, not since Malachi had promised the coming of Elijah (Mal. 4:5–6). The spiritual leaders were shackled by tradition and, in some instances, corruption; and their king, Herod the Great, was a tyrant. He had nine (some say ten) wives, one of whom he had executed for no apparent reason. But no matter how dark the day, God always has His devoted and obedient people.
 
Luke 1 expect GodZacharias (“Jehovah has remembered”) and Elizabeth (“God is my oath”) were a godly couple who both belonged to the priestly line. The priests were divided into twenty-four courses (1 Chron. 24), and each priest served in the temple two weeks out of the year. In spite of the godlessness around them, Zacharias and Elizabeth were faithful to obey the Word of God and live blamelessly. Their only sorrow was that they had no family, and they made this a matter of constant prayer. Little did they know that God would answer their prayers and give them, not a priest, but a prophet! And no ordinary prophet, for their son would be the herald of the coming King!
 
In this first chapter, Luke tells us how God’s wonderful news came to different people and how they responded to it. You will discover four different responses; unbelief, fearful, faithful and faithless.
 
Faith is blessed, but unbelief is judged, and Zacharias was struck dumb (and possibly deaf, Luke 1:62) until the Word was fulfilled. “I believed, and therefore have I spoken” (2 Cor. 4:13). Zacharias did not believe; therefore he could not speak. When he left the holy place, he was unable to give the priestly benediction to the people (Num. 6:22–27) or even tell them what he had seen. Indeed, God had given him a very personal “sign” that he would have to live with for the next nine months.
 
Zacharias must have had a difficult time completing his week of ministry, not only because of his handicap, but also because of his excitement. He could hardly wait to return “to the hill country” (Luke 1:39) where he lived, to tell his wife the good news.
 
God kept His promise and Elizabeth conceived a son in her old age. “There is nothing too hard for the Lord” (Jer. 32:17). Apparently the amazement and curiosity of the people forced her to hide herself even as she praised the Lord for His mercy. Not only was she to have a son, but the birth of her son was evidence that the Messiah was coming! These were exciting days indeed!
 
luke 1 for allHOLY PAUSE
 
Has God revealed his will to you, but you just couldn’t believe it?
 
When is our own faith challenged to see what we really believe when it comes to “performing our duties” at church?
 
Do we believe God can speak to us as we do what we voluntarily do for His church each week?
 
Are we listening, in faith? Are we watching for God to show up and reveal His glory?
 
Do we ask?
 
Dear Father in Heaven, Lord and Savior,
I’m listening. I am excited about what you will reveal to us from the Gospel of Luke today and in the coming days ahead. Thank you for your word. Thank you for Your Presence in our lives.
In Jesus Name, Amen.
Posted in Blessings, Christian Living, Christian Perspective, Embrace, Encouragement, Faith, Following Jesus, Forgiveness, Grace, harvest, heaven, Holy Spirit, Hope, insight, Jesus, joy, Leadership, Listen, lost but found, Love, marriage, Mercy, ministry, Praise, Prayer, relationship with God, repent, Revelation of Jesus, Salvation, Searching, Teaching, Thanksgiving, Training, Transformation, trust in God, Truth, Uncategorized, Unconditional love, waiting on God, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment